Animals have Characteristics and abilities that were once considered strange, yet at the same time, desired by people; movements, such as flying, diving, swimming long distances, jumping far and high, and running fast as well as the qualities of fine hearing, and sharp vision, great strength, and the ability to metamorphose. When humans or animals are seen interlaced in a knot, this can represent the struggle of man and nature, the dependence of man on nature, or represent relationships between man and nature or man vs. man.
The flight of birds is considered a bridge between the worlds – this world, earth, water, and the Otherworld. Through layers of symbolism that correspond to their natural behaviors, birds can be harmonizing, life-supporting, and healing, and also destructive and demonic. Birds are also viewed as symbols of omens or bearer of messages.
The bull is a much revered Celtic animal symbol with several translations. It is mostly thought of as a symbol of strong will but is also a virile sign for men and a fertility sign for women. The bull was a great source of food for the Celts and represents fairer and abundant times in Celtic villages; the bull is a representation of riches and wealth.
Research reveals that the symbol of the butterfly spans many cultures as a symbol of transformation, inspiration, and rebirth. Rebirth was especially important to the Celts, both in spiritual and physical realms.
The cat is highly regarded among Celtic animal symbols. By the way of the Egyptians to Romans, and from Romans to the Celts, the cat represents the guardian of the Otherworld. Stoic, silent and mysterious, astute, crafty and clever, they are also liaisons to mystic realms. When invoked, they can grant the caller a variety of insights regarding more esoteric, ethereal knowledge.
The dog symbolizes loyalty and the strong bond of companionship felt between humans and animals. Considered to be good luck, the symbol of the dog was commonly found in Celtic art and decore. Dogs were the harbingers of good health and their companionship warded off the illnesses caused by loneliness and rejection. A Celt was rarely found hunting without a hound nearby.
The appearance of dolphins off the coast of Ireland urged the Celts to contemplate the sea, which was an unknown universe. The dolphin became a symbol of friendship, good luck, and intelligence.
The dragon is the guardian of treasures. Among the Celts, the dragon has a greater role of a guardian than the snake. The Celtic dragon is also traditionally associated with military matters. It stands for armed forces and sometimes even becomes a hero.
Geese were common sights in the lush green lands in Ireland and their migration was duly noted by the ever-observant Celts. Consequently, the Celtic symbolism of the goose deals with our own migratory or transitory nature. The goose is also a strong symbol of hearth and home, returning to the same place each spring, so the symbol was displayed to encourage the safe return of the Celtic warrior.
Part eagle, part lion, the griffin is a symbol of duality, presenting a balance of both good and not so good qualities. The griffin’s more likable qualities include nobility, gentleness, and justice. Griffins are the guardians and protectors of life and remain loyal to their protection in the afterlife. The griffin is an incredibly strong symbol and is reserved for when the need is greatest. Missed or invoked for selfish reasons, the griffin brings about gluttony, vengeance, ferocity, and violence.
Salmon figure prominently in Celtic tales, and are primarily associated with wisdom and prophecy. In the story of the legendary Celtic hero, Fionn mac Cumhaill. Fionn was the apprentice of the Druid Finneigas, who captured the salmon of knowledge and left Fionn to tend the fire as the fish cooked. When Fionn sucked his thumb after burning it on the fish he ‘stole’ the Druid’s prize and the salmon’s wisdom was transferred to him.
The salmon also figures in Welsh versions of the tale of King Arthur and in an echo of older Celtic myths, the hero Culhwch is carried on the back of a magical salmon. The fish, as a symbol of wisdom in Celtic art, persisted with the coming of Christianity. The association of Jesus as a fisherman was one of the many aspects of Christianity that appealed to the Celts.
Snakes are seen in Celtic symbolism as a multifaceted symbol that represents, among other things, fertility and creation, Their ability to shed their skin creates symbols of rebirth. Their deadly poison, like the saliva and breath of other animals, can also stand as a symbol for healing. The form and forward motion of the snake represents a connection between river and sea, heaven and earth.